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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Paleontology: Early Vertebrate Evolution by University of Alberta

1,085 ratings

About the Course

Paleontology: Early Vertebrate Evolution is a four-lesson course teaching a comprehensive overview of the origin of vertebrates. Students will explore the diversity of Palaeozoic lineages within a phylogenetic and evolutionary framework. This course examines the evolution of major vertebrate novelties including the origin of fins, jaws, and tetrapod limbs. Students also explore key Canadian fossil localities, including the Burgess Shale (British Columbia), Miguasha (Quebec), and Man On The Hill (Northwest Territories). Watch a preview of the course here:

Top reviews


Jun 20, 2016

WOW, I learned a lot form this and it was fairly educational but not overwhelming or difficult. This instructor really gets the points across without being to easy or hard. A very good class.


Mar 2, 2018

Celebrate your inner fish as you swim along with this awesome course charting our earliest ancestors. Very well constructed and delivered once again by the team at the University of Alberta.

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1 - 25 of 295 Reviews for Paleontology: Early Vertebrate Evolution


Jun 15, 2018

The information presented was very good, though the heavy use of scientific names for various grades, clades, physical features, and assorted trait classifications was kind of overwhelming for such a short and introductory course. Perhaps the lectures could be broken up into shorter videos to have a narrower field of coverage for each one, so only a few new terms are presented at a time. The phylogenetic tree viewer still had many "locked" cards the last time I was sent to it, and no new organisms listed since module 1 or 2 even though many had already been discussed. The closed captioning and the sound seemed to be off in many places, though perhaps this was due to a poor wifi connection on my part.The biggest problem I had was with the presenter himself. Not only is he dressed like Indiana Jones for some odd reason; but his jerky, bouncy movements, exaggerated facial expressions, flailing hands and theatrical voice inflection made him VERY hard to watch and concentrate on the material presented. I actually had to pause quite a few times just to give myself a break from watching him twitching all over the place.

By Ron O

May 20, 2020

I have always wanted to know more about our earliest ancestors, how jaws and limbs formed, why we breath air, and more. This course crams hundreds of millions of years in to just a four week course, but it delivered pretty much everything that I wanted to know, did it quickly, did it well, and used its time efficiently. I really enjoyed this course and the media it provided to help me understand our past better. I could not be happier with my time spent at this moment.

By Camilo M R

Jan 18, 2019

Gracias por todo, gracias por creer en mi para aprovechar todas las gratificantes y excitantes historias sobre la evolución de los vertebrados, gracias por darme su apoyo económico y por darme todo ese excelente material de apoyo y guías que brindan para cada semana. Los felicito por hacer un curso tan completo y gracias por apoyar mis estudios y avances en materia paleontológica; espero que algún día pueda agradecerles personalmente.

Con mucho cariño Camilo Mejía Rivera. Medellín, Colombia.

Estos son mis más gratificantes y excelentes aprendizajes mientras desarrollaba el curso de Paleontología: evolución temprana de los vertebrados

Aprendí a diferenciar las estructuras en los diferentes seres vivos desde el ordovícico, devónico y silúrico, las cuales nos ayudan a identificar como fue la evolución de las especies desde los cordados (ancestros primarios) hasta los tetrápodos (nuestros parientes con cuatro extremidades) Aprendí las diferentes funciones de las estructuras presentes en los seres vivos ancestros de los vertebrados y su respectiva manera y carácter de evolución.

Aprendí sobre los diferentes periodos geológicos (ordovícico, devónico y silúrico), el cómo era la tierra en estos periodos, como era el clima, las cantidades de oxígeno, dióxido de carbono, las rocas y especies características de cada periodo, además de las diferentes tasas de origen y extinción de especies.

Aprendí a distinguir entre los espacios de acumulación geológicos, sobre cuáles son los mejores para poder haber acumulaciones de seres vivos y su posterior etapa de fosilización; también sobre los eventos que generan una excelente instancia para que los fósiles conserven sus partes de la mejor manera (anóxico).

Aprendí sobre como es el estudio mancomunado de los geólogos y paleontólogos para describir cómo era la especie y como era el entorno en que se desarrolló. Aprendí a distinguir sobre los nichos que fueron determinantes para el desarrollo de la especie y como estos eran aprovechados por otras especies.

Aprendí sobre como los diferentes ancestros de los vertebrados que a partir de la necesidad desarrollaron su capacidad de filtrado de comida, su capacidad sensitiva debajo del agua, su mordida, sus dientes, la evolución de los huesos y cartílagos, la variación en forma y uso de las aletas; y como todos estos aspectos evolucionaron para que los tetrápodos pudieran apoyar sus cuerpos en cuatro extremidades, para que pudieran ver en el aire y no en el agua, para que pudieran escuchar en el aire y no en el agua.

Aprendí a Usar el árbol filogenético de la Universidad de Alberta, además de aprender mucho sobre la formación de la luna, formación de la tierra y eventos importantes que ocurrieron en la historia de la tierra para que esta sea hoy lo que es.

Aprendí de lugares importantes paleontológica y geológicamente hablando, de los cuales se extraen las diferentes especies en excelente estado para su posterior estudio.

By Carlo

Sep 9, 2017

Great class! Covers a lot of material very clearly in four weeks. The use of the media is good with in-video quizzes, interactive geologic time scale and phylogenetic tree of life. Course notes are provided for each lessons (they are very well done). The presenter, Scott Persons, a PhD student at the time if I am not mistaken, is great, though he is very surprisingly not credited on the homepage of the course, which is a shame (especially given that he has also written his scripts among other things...) More pictures/videos of fossils, as well as videos on fossil sites, would have been great. Also sometimes the course sounded too much like a catalog of facts. More scientific reasoning would have been great.

By Eugene Y

Oct 7, 2016

I thoroughly enjoyed this course and would recommend it to anyone interested in evolution or paleontology. The course does an excellent job in picturing one of those truly revolutionary time periods in the history of animal life on Earth. The level of detail, pace, materials and visuals are just perfect. And the presenter does a top-notch job of delivering the material. Thanks to the University of Alberta and the team behind this great MOOC!

By Bruno L P C

Jul 3, 2018

This course is absolutely great! It was very informative, organized and helped me a lot when it comes to the knowledge of this scientific area. Since i'm hoping to become a student in a Masters degree in Paleontology, i definitely recommend this course, because of how rich it is in information, and how fun and interactive it is. There were some creatures, our long ancestors, that i didn't know about too, until viewing this course.

By Jingtian Z

Dec 26, 2020

I've already viewed Mountains 101 from University of Alberta, it is pretty much like Mountains 101, and I am very familiar with some part and places. This makes this course much easier for me, and I get good grades during my study of this course. I know were we come from in the beginning, its a fish found in Haikou, China, and I live in China. I am very eager to read the book, "Meet Your Inner Fish" and explore about our orgins.

By Steve M

May 18, 2016

This (like the other UoA paleontology courses available on Coursera) is an excellent introduction to the subject. Detailed enough to be really interesting to those with some background in the area, the material is engagingly presented by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic lecturer. The format is exceptionally well-structured, combining cutting-edge research and discoveries with helpful graphics. Highly recommended!

By Jeff Y

Aug 5, 2016

Even if you've never had a lifelong fascination with natural history like I did, this course should be fascinating and educational enough to draw you in. Scott Persons is an amazing teacher: clear, concise, knowledgeable and passionate enough that you will never feel lost, learn a great deal and yet never feel bored. Highly recommended for anyone with even a modicum of interest in fossils and vertebrate origins.

By Rohit P

Jun 4, 2020

If you are new to Paleobiology like i was, i would recommed you take the course 'Dino 101" by Uni of Alberta before taking this one. This one in itself is complete but getting a substantial amount of basics before diving into this would help remember facts better.

This course in itself is very well put. Every little detail is well put, the tutor is friendly and the material is exceptional!

By Joanne O

May 25, 2017

Another wonderful course from University of Alberta. Dr Scott Persons is a fantastic guide through this exciting period on evolution. The course notes and interactive phylogenetic tree are excellent resources. Among the many things i have learn't in this excellent course, i have come away with a new appreciation for sea squirts and lung fish.

By Kimberly K

Aug 8, 2016

I love all your online sources. I think the information is presented well and with logical questions to test the information. I like how the presenter was clearly knowledgeable and spoke with excitement. He was very engaging. The visuals are great. The fossils are great. The extra time and effort put into the materials is obvious.

By Llelani C

Jan 24, 2019

Lecture material very comprehensive, well explained, and engaging. The diagrams assist in understanding, although in some lectures instead of just showing the artistic reconstruction of the animal repeatedly, perhaps show more information depicting the structures being discussed.

By Juan A P A

Aug 8, 2020

This was an absolutely wonderful course. The proffesor is so funny and knows a lot about paleontology. The videos a little bit long but not stressful, it's really worth it. The only bad thing is that debate forums are a ghost town and a lot of posts are unaswered.

By Heather l

Dec 17, 2020

Finally a MOOC that actually has some technical details in it. All of the material is well presented including excellent videos, course notes and the interactive phylogenetic tree. The material is well structured starting with the evolution of chordates and ending with the first tetrapods. Extensive examples of both fossil sites and the animals that have been found in them are used to great effect throughout the course. Scott Persons is a very good presenter and his passion for the subject comes over very well.

I thoroughly enjoyed the course and will be enrolling on some of the other University of Alberta courses very soon! Highly recommended to anyone wanting to go a bit further into Palaeontology that the pop-sci courses found elsewhere on the web.

By Aleksandar M

Jul 13, 2022

Yet another fantastic palaeontology course by the University of Alberta. Covers the story on the evolution of tetrapods from the earliest chordates, including not only the morphological and anatomical differences, but also palaeoecology and palaeogeography. The story is told in a fun and captivating way, with wonderfully illustrative visuals. Most celebrity animals, like Dunkleosteus, are covered. My only complaint is that the story ends with the first tetrapods, which makes the course too short. Have they extended the story to the rest of the Palaeozoic vertebrates, it would have made this course a wonderful prequel to the Dino 101.

By Ashley C

Jun 14, 2020

A very interesting course that was really informative and detailed. The literature was easy to read and matched well with the videos. The presentations were fun to digest. The only minor drawback for me, as a non-science person, was the hard-to-pronounce names that got very labor-some to keep track of. However! My intention with taking this course was not to master the names, but to learn about early life and how it evolved as is documented by fossils. Quizzes were well formed to focus on the major information.


Nov 13, 2020

As a student that loves evolution and wants to become an Evolutionary Biologist I feel more than honored to follow this course that helped me learn many important information on the early evolution of our ancestors and I definitely recommend it to anyone who shares the same passion with me! It's totally worth your time and the way the professor explains everything is more than amazing! Thank you so much for the great work and the information that you gave us!

By Susi S

Feb 8, 2021

I thoroughly enjoyed having the notes to read through prior to the presentation. It was so helpful to me. I am not a fast note taker and it was perfect that I had the notes in front of me, could follow along the presentation, and then make my own notations within the copy of the notes that were provided. Excellent. I also love the subject matter - I have been a big Paleontology fan since, at least, grade 1. I'm 56 years old now - it is still exciting to me.

By Paolo I

Jun 27, 2020

I found the course a bit "long" in terms of week content. Perhaps dividing each lesson in 2 weeks would be better. But that's a opinion based on my preferences on online courses

On the course itself, I found it very interesting, it's not a subject I know much, but I think it's interesting. And the course's content is interesting, not very hard for someone outside the area, and leaves with the impression that a follow-up course would be enjoyable.

By Kathryn K

Aug 27, 2020

Fun course and great presenter. The notes/PDF handouts are invaluable and put together in a way I rarely see in online courses. (That's a good thing!) They are well-written, clearly organized, have good illustrations, and can be understood apart from the videos. They are like a mini-textbook that goes along with the course to help people who learn better by reading than listening. The interactive content was useful too.

By Christopher S

Feb 6, 2021

I really enjoyed this course. The presenter is fantastic and makes the material more interactive by his delivery :) There really is nothing better than listening to someone that sounds like they enjoy what they are teaching! The information is a great overview and has provided me with a good opportunity to take the names, periods and terms and go on to do more research on the topics. Thank You :)

By Vladislav Z

Oct 11, 2020

The course material was very easy to follow, interesting and presented in an engaging format. The video lectures were augmented by readings also allowing the option to choose whichever format was preferable to learning the material or both. The quizzes related to the material learned in the corresponding lectures and the course was structured well. I enjoyed taking this MOOC.

By Tunç G K

Apr 29, 2018

Thanks for offering the course. I have not still finished the course but I want to rate and post a comment. I like your curriculum and the way you communicate your content very much. You have great lecture notes and vivid videos.

I think you might also include some more general infographs since it sometimes get harder and harder when so many things are introduced together.

By Chris V

Jul 15, 2017

The provided material and videos are just amazing and Scott is an awesome presenter. *thumbs-up* It was really easy to follow along and learn heaps of new information. I was always interested in the early processes of evolution and I am happy I found this course. I would definitely recommend this course to friends and anybody else who has an interest in palaeontology.